With just under a week to go in the 2013 NHL Regular Season, we enter the closing days with a solid 34-22 record with our featured games on the year. We are fresh off a tough shootout loss Tuesday night with the Islanders, but with a healthy slate of games on the card tonight, expect a big bounceback performance.
Tonight’s featured pick involves a key match-up for the Winnipeg Jets. The Jets simply must win this game to have any shot at making the post-season, and they’ll be hosting a slumping Montreal Canadiens team. It promises to be an intriguing night in Winnipeg.
Montreal Canadiens (-115) @ Winnipeg Jets (-105)
How the Canadiens are favoured in this contest is absolutely beyond me. The Habs have been one of the NHL’s most awful teams over the past few weeks, and look like a team in complete disarray. Their balanced scoring has run dry, their defense looks lost, and most notably, Carey Price cannot stop a beach ball. The highly touted netminder has floundered in recent games and has shown zero sign of snapping out of this funk. Montreal plays well at home and with home-ice on the line tonight in Winnipeg, you know they’ll be seeking out a victory.
Meanwhile for the Jets, the stakes and scenario is pretty simple. Winnipeg simply must win tonight in front of their rabid fans and hope for the best the rest of the way from the likes of the Rangers and Senators. The Jets have been playing very hard and very well, and despite losing Tuesday to the Capitals, they showed a ton of grit and determination to continually fight back. The Jets are a hungry bunch that deserves playoff hockey and expect a fired up atmosphere to result in some solid play tonight. Winnipeg hasn’t seen the playoffs since the team relocated and you can bet the team would love to repay their loyal fans with what could be a huge victory tonight.
Montreal will still be without Ryan White who was suspended recently, and Alexei Emelin who is out for the year. Emelin’s loss has been cited as a key contributor to the Habs’ recent slide, and their defense hasn’t picked up the slack in his absence. Montreal is small and soft and expect the big, strong forward group of the Jets to use this to their advantage and wear the Habs down. The Jets are battling their fair share of injuries themselves but with what’s on the line, the rest of the team should be able to get it done.
Since Montreal clinched a playoff spot, the team has simply lost its identity. They are no longer doing the things that made them successful early in the year, and it will be difficult to just revert to their old ways tonight in such a hostile environment. The depleted Jets are a hungrier, more motivated group, and will do enough to secure a key victory tonight. Winnipeg has the potential to be lethal on the powerplay, while Montreal’s penalty kill of late has been downright comical. They’ve conceded 10 goals on their past 27 chances, during their recent 1-5-0 stretch. The Habs know they need to be better, but against an absolutely desperate Winnipeg squad, getting better will have to wait another day. Expect the Jets to take this one comfortably.
PICK = Winnipeg (-105)